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Posts Tagged ‘bruce sterling

Netbooks are Spimes

I was speaking with my friend Jez yesterday about our past adventures in hardware.  We discussed one company’s past attempt at productizing a pc much like a carrier-subsidized mobile phone.  Well, that sure sounds like a spime to me.  Bruce Sterling coined this term to describe the next class of gadget.  It has a unique identifier (epc) and thus has an identity.  It exists in space and time, networked, and ultimately enhanceable.  It fundamentally comprises the Internet of Things, perhaps our most drastic paradigm shift of the Information Age.  It builds upon all of the innovations that have come before… cloud computing, social networks, semantic web, software-as-a-service.  Actually, I like to characterize spimes as “hardware as a service.”

Netbooks are selling well.  The fact that Asus defined this market with their 7 inch screen, linux-based $299 eeePC and now has 18 models to choose from demonstrates that consumers didn’t care much about the consumer brand.  Asus may have the worst PR/marketing departments I’ve ever had the pleasure of approaching.  It doesn’t matter.  Lots of people wanted something cheap that surfed the web and didn’t require shoulders of steel to sherpa the thing around town.

This year at CES, new deals were announced that can ensure a tethered network connection back to the mothership.  A carrier-subsidized Netbook. Why is this significant?  As Jez described to me earlier, Americans are used to the free phone with 2 year service contract concept.  And, of course, all companies are looking for that Trojan Horse platform in order to sell you extra services, like a silly ringtone.  What will change is proprietary lock-in.  People always seemed psyched to dump their existing cell provider once their 2 years is up.  What a squandered opportunity to build customer loyalty.

Web 1.0 was you, Web 2.0 is us, and Web 3.0 will be me.

Doesn’t it make sense to bundle Internet with the device?  Sure, but will we only be able to choose from within the oligopoly?  Will the Obama-led government support a level playing field for the Internet?  Since I don’t get out much, I found it interesting how something as basic as electricity is sold and managed in England.  After Thatcher deregulated and privatized the grid, your “utility” could be the supermarket or the hardware store.  Electrons are the ultimate commodity and the brand synergies were the drivers.  We’ll “sell” you your power and you can save $20 on your grocery bill when you shop with us.  Does this translate to the Internet access market in the US?  Of course it does.   I remember

Let’s bring back the local ISP.

No, it doesn’t have to be a bunch of slovenly 20-somethings operating out of an abandoned retail store.  But, what if every spime that you purchased found its way back to the manufacturer in order to be enhanced in some way.  And, if you didn’t want it any longer, it would be nice if that manufacturer offered you a shiny replacement while folding your old spime back into their production stream.  That’s sustainable, and its why Mr. Sterling can be so hopeful about a near-Orwellian future.  We have our futurists to thank.  By authoring these cautionary tales, we have the ability to steer our techno-social future in positive ways for our planet.

So, the local ISP can be the brand that you trust.  The ones that will help you when the big boys can’t be bothered.  Its a tech-concierge future, and if you don’t like how you’re being served, fire them.  The ability to fire your service provider is a tremendously healthy aspect to this future.  Your digital life is not stored in your netbook.  Its just your user interface to the Internet of Things.  Why rent space on Facebook or Twitter when you can own your personal cache of data, relationships, media, health records, etc.  You’re using your hardware-as-a-service and you can hire whatever company or individual that can help you connect with people or things in a manner you want.  I’m cool with that future. How about you?


Written by ishak

January 23, 2009 at 8:52 pm